I took a walk with Elijah by the river today. The air was rather mild despite the recent blizzard, and I was breaking a path through knee-deep snow. Altogether it was very good exercise.
The reason I was exercising thusly is because I'd just had a shouting fight with my husband about the gym. He thought I should go to the gym because I Clearly Needed A Break. I said a break wouldn't cut it after the morning I'd had. He said Don't You Trust Me to Watch the Three Children it's like you're some kind of Martyr for no cause in particular, a bitchy Martyr who is Unpleasant to be around. I said, if you really want to hear my opinion, you can't take the baby out in this weather just standing around, he screams when you do this, I know from a lot of personal experience holding a screaming baby, and you can't let the other children play in the street unsupervised, and if it's all the same to you I'd rather mind the baby than have him screaming on the street or having my other children hit by a car, and furthermore I'm tired risking the life and limb and the happiness of everyone in this family just so I can spend thirty minutes in a smelly room burning one fifth of the calories I ate for lunch.
Dan said he thought I liked the gym.
I said I like it fine. But. I haven't slept in weeks and the older kids are capable of fighting over which monochrome lego brick belongs to whom and the baby screams if he's awake and not touching me and there is no amount of pull-ups that will that okay. I cannot spend thirty minutes on the rowing machine and come back to the same house and the same life and pretend it's all totally okay.
So Why not go for an hour? Dan said.
And I said, you don't understand. This body that I might spend an hour training in front of a sticky mirror? this body is food and comfort for ten hours every night. Actively. Like, I have to prop myself up on my side and the arm that I'm propping up on goes numb. And then during the day, carrying that back-pack around all the time, my body is some kind of a diaper/spare-clothing/snack/water-bottle/bandaid mule.
There is no magic amount of time at the gym that will make this okay. I just want you to hear that. If I go to the gym, let's just be clear, I want to leave open the possibility that I might come back and still be kind of frustrated.
Dan said Do Whatever You Want and slammed the front door.
I decided what I really wanted was to get some fresh air.
So I bundled the baby into his snowsuit (he doesn't scream if he's moving) and me and the difficult one took a long walk by the frozen river.
And you know what? It WAS good exercise.
But fuck exercise.
I am tired of wondering whether things are good exercise or not. I am tired of wondering if I am working my quads or if I am working my glutes or if I've burned the calories I just consumed or am planning to consume later. I'm so very tired of wondering anything. Wondering whether a white noise machine will get my baby to sleep, or if sleeplessness is just part of my life not subject to change. I just want to stop wondering. I just... want to do something because it's ENJOYABLE.
Not because it'll make me a better mother or because it'll make me thinner or because an accountant in my head is calculating the per-use cost of my gym membership. I just want to do something FUN for an hour. I walk to walk in the snow and look at the bunny tracks and say in some pleased voice I may not possess: "That's something I won't be able to do when I'm dead."
Elijah enjoyed bouncing around and looking at the snowy trees. He didn't notice the incongruity later of going to bed to a soundtrack of beach noises. Let's hope (though I don't mean to functionalize our time together) that the walk and the noise machine help him put some real hours of sleep together. Perhaps they will get both of us dreaming of fresh air and summer.